Week 14 Legislative Update

The 2022 Iowa Legislative Session

Week of April 11th, 2022

This Week in the Iowa Legislature

It’s become eerily quiet in the final weeks leading up to adjournment. The House worked on Tuesday hearing retirement speeches, passing a few noncons, and closed out their work for the day and week by passing the infamous bottle bill. The Senate worked on Tuesday and Wednesday also recognizing retiring Senators, passing a handful of bouncing bills, and they passed their first budget bill out of the Appropriations Committee. They wrapped up early again this week to allow members to be home for Easter weekend. No progress was made on the outstanding Governor’s or legislative leadership’s policy priorities this week. Major policy pieces still needing legislative action include the biofuels bill, PBM reform, tort reform, school choice, unemployment reductions, and of course the bottle bill. We understand all of these items are part of the final negotiations which will lead us toward adjournment.

 

Bottle Bill Is Making Progress

After much buzz last week about the bottle bill and Senator Schultz comments to take action or repeal the law, the House spent a considerable amount of time negotiating SF 2378 in their own chamber and with the Senate. We understand a deal has been struck to move the bill forward.  The House amended the Senate bill to outline certain circumstances for which a retailers can opt-out of bottle and can redemptions essentially providing less leeway for retailers to opt-out of receiving redemptions. Much of the debate is central to retailers no longer wanting to accept redemptions, while opponents argue these retailers are the only location for some Iowans to redeem their 5-cent deposit, especially in rural communities. The final agreement also requires the DNR to establish an online system for locating redemption centers. The amended bill received bipartisan support in the House and now heads back to the Senate for final approval where it is expected to pass.

 

Senate Passes Tax Bill Constitutional Amendment

This week the Senate took an even broader stance on Iowa’s tax rates with SJR 2006, Supermajority Tax Approval. This legislation would amend the Iowa Constitution to require a supermajority (2/3 of either chamber) to increase or establish any tax in the state. Senator Dawson, Chairman of Senate Ways and Means Committee, argued the bill would ensure stable tax rates and make it harder for future assemblies to repeal the recently passed tax cuts. SJR 2006 still requires action by the House to pass this session and will need to complete the full legislative process again next session to then be up for approval by Iowa voters in the 2024 General Election.

 

Biden Visits Iowa

On Tuesday afternoon President Biden delivered remarks at POET, a biofuels plant, just west of the Des Moines metro. Biden announced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon issue an emergency waiver to allow the sale of E-15 during the summer months. He suggested this move will allow for more energy independence and will bolster the energy and agricultural economies. Previously, the EPA had restricted the sale of E-15 in summer months due to higher rates of transportation causing potential increases in air pollution from the use of E-15 and other ethanol blends. Governor Reynolds thanked the President and acknowledged there is more to be done to address high energy and fuel prices, noting unrestricted access to E-15 is a great first step.

President Biden also spoke on his administration’s infrastructure package, which Congress passed in November 2021. Iowa can expect nearly $4 billion in funding for infrastructure improvements including bridge replacements, repairs, and maintenance over the next ten years. Iowa currently ranks No. 1 for most bridges with structural deficiencies. Biden also called attention to the $1 billion investment of American Rescue Plan Funds to expand meat packing and processing across the country. You can find the transcript of President Biden’s speech here.

 

District Judge Removes Finkenauer from June Primary Ballot

Although former Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer was considered the frontrunner in the three-way Democratic primary race against current Senator Chuck Grassley, it is possible her name will not be on the June Primary Ballot. Last month, the State Objection Panel reviewed a complaint made by a couple Republican activists against Finkenauer’s signatures on her nominating petitions. The bipartisan panel found the campaign had secured just enough signatures in every county to qualify for placement on the ballot.

Following this decision, the Republican activists filed a lawsuit against the State Objection Panel and Finkenauer alleging some of her signatures were invalid. On Sunday evening, Polk County District Judge Scott Beattie found two undated signatures on Finkenauer’s submitted petition. With the disqualification of these signatures, Judge Beattie argued the campaign did not receive enough support to be placed on the ballot. Finkenauer’s campaign appealed the decision with the Iowa Supreme Court, who heard the case on Wednesday afternoon. The state’s highest court is expected to issue their decision on whether Finkenauer will appear on the ballot Friday evening or even over the weekend.

 

Budget Process

There was no significant progress announced this week on a FY23 joint budget target. The House is done with budgets except for the Standings bill, which is always the last budget to move through the process. They will need a joint target before this work can begin. The Senate budget chairman said each Senate budget chair has their proposed target, but those numbers have not been made public. We understand the House and Senate leaders continue their budget discussions as they look for a path to adjournment. In the meantime, the Senate assigned subcommittee members to all the House budget bills and moved the Transportation bill through the full committee.

Below is the updated chart outlining each individual budget bill, its number, and where it is in the overall process. This chart will be updated each week until the legislature adjourns.

Bill Number Department Status House Target
HF 2565 Admin & Reg Assigned SENATE subcommittee 3/29  $50.2 million
HF 2560 Ag & Natural Resources Assigned SENATE subcommittee 3/29 $54.1 million
HF 2564 Economic Development Assigned SENATE subcommittee 3/29  $49.4 million
HF 2575 Education Assigned SENATE subcommittee 3/31 $1 billion
HF 2578 Health & Human Services Assigned SENATE subcommittee 4/12 $2.1 billion
HF 2558 Judicial Branch Assigned SENATE subcommittee 3/24 $200.6 million
HF 2559 Justice Systems Assigned SENATE subcommittee 3/24 $633.8 million
HF 2579 Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF/TIC) Assigned SENATE subcommittee 4/12 $171.7 million
HF 2557 Transportation Passed SENATE committee 4/13 $416.1 million
N/A Standings N/A  

 

Looking Ahead

The House and Senate are both rumored to not be holding any floor debate next week. We have heard the Senate may move budget bills through subcommittee and committee, but that may be the extent of legislative action next week. Tuesday, April 19th marks the 100th day of session which means legislators per diem will end requiring them to pay their own way the rest of the session. Rumors are circulating we may wrap up within the next 10-14 days, but we have heard that before! As you know, it’s anyone’s guess when adjournment will actually happen.

While we’re in the slow process of session coming to a close, we understand negotiations on budgets and outstanding policy bills amongst leadership of both chambers will take up the majority of next week. It’s clear everyone at the Capitol is anxious and wanting to get out as soon as possible. One thing we know for sure is that it is only a matter of time until a deal is struck. Once it happens, things will move very quickly. In the meantime, don’t lose hope!